Oh, you wonder why there is « digital reading » in the title of this post, since it’s a real book that headlines the article ? Wait a little, they can form in twos !
When I first bought me a Sony electronic reader in 2008, there was one experimental publisher in France that was proposing new voices on digital format, coming from the French-speaking communities : publie.net . It’s still here, still opening up new literary frontiers, and that’s where I first heard from Mahigan Lepage with « Carnets du Népal ». Other digital books followed and a while ago, publie.net decided to make its ebooks available on paper ! Wonderful idea : you buy the paper edition, and you have free access to the digital versions, epub and mobipocket.
Mahigan Lepage is a Quebecker, he grew up in a Quebec French speaking community, but of course english is like a second language for him. Quebec French is slightly different from Metropolitan French. Some words differ, ways of describing things and situations seem full of imagery to us french people, it really gives french language different colors. From the very first book of Mahigan Lepage I perceived a very rich language, so dynamic. Many of his books are about travelling but his best one (for me) talks about adolescence, its hesitations, its fury, this one is such a great book : « Vers l’Ouest ».
Being fond of his writings, I’ve been following Mahigan Lepage on his weblog for quite a few years, that’s where I discovered the project of this book/travel. Big Bang City, four trips, eight megalopolis : Manila, Jakarta, Beijing, Shanghai, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok. Hong Kong was also on the route but it was a town where he only briefly transited.
I first read the book, read 120 pages in a row (on 480). Then I realized I was missing something, because the digital edition includes video and audio documents. So I grabbed the epub file and put it on my Nexus 10. I first tested it with Aldiko Epub Reader but the result was not satisfactory, so I tried with Google Play Books, which includes a dedicated ebook reader, and it was really good. You can see the links towards two video excerpts on this capture :
So the travel begins with Manila, a sprawling metropolis full of chaos, poverty and resourcefulness. Crazy town with huge traffic jams, that’s an experience :
Then comes Jakarta, equally chaotic and terrific, this first trip really seemed exhausting. The second trip begins with Beijing, another disproportionate city, but where things are more organized, less anarchic. There is another advantage by reading the electronic version over the paper version : photos are in color !
The travel continues through China with Shanghai, and a short stop in Hong Kong, where M.Lepage discovers a typhoon, and how the inhabitants are accustomed to them :
Third trip : India, with Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai. We feel again the pressure of cities that grow up without any municipal plan. What strikes more in India is the harsh lives of people deprived from any rights, people who must fight every day to stay alive, disabled, old, ill people, some situations are really frightening.
Mahigan Lepage builds up an expression to refer to these people : « les combattants primordiaux », which one could translate by « overriding fighters » or something like that. They have no alternative but fight everyday for their life, work hard and live hard.
Last trip, last town : Bangkok. But this is not how local people call their city. People from Ho-Chi-Minh City still call their city Saïgon, well that’s the same thing with Bangkok, people call it : « Krungthep ». That’s one of the many things we learn from this town and this country. Mahigan Lepage know them well, since he travelled over there extensively, worked there for many months and learned Thai language. But if you want to know more about all this…just buy the book, you won’t be disappointed !
POST-SCRIPTUM : all the material I’ve shot above with my camera is under copyright of Publie.Net Editions and Mahigan Lepage. This blog has no commercial purpose at all, I just wanted to share my thoughts about this fantastic book. If Mahigan Lepage or his publisher happen to read this and to be dissatisfied by this article, they can be assure I will of course modify its form.